25

April

Green Bay Packers Draft Matchup: Doug Martin vs. Chris Polk

NFL Draft Prospect Doug Martin, RB Boise State

Martin is one of the most complete running backs in the NFL draft.

Running back might not be the biggest need for the Green Bay Packers in the 2012 NFL draft, but it is certainly an intriguing position for the team.  While their offense doesn’t necessary suffer with poor play at running back, it would certainly make them all the more dangerous if they had a real weapon in the backfield.

Two prospects that carry first-round grades, but could slip into the second or third rounds are Doug Martin of Boise State and Chris Polk of Washington.  Each player brings a unique skill set to the field.

Martin is one of the most complete backs in the draft, and while he isn’t necessarily “elite” in any aspect of his game, he is a solid all-around contributor.  Not only would he be an improvement as a pure runner, but Martin can also block and act as a receiver out of the backfield.

Many consider Martin to be the second or third best running back available in this year’s draft, and if the Packers could land him, it would be a huge boost to their team.

As far as Polk goes, he may not be as complete of a player as Martin, but he may be a better pure running back.  He is extremely patient and excels at running between the tackles.  Polk still has room to grow as a true receiving threat, but he could definitely grow into one of the better pass-catching running backs.

While both Martin and Polk would be an instant upgrade over James Starks, Alex Green or Brandon Saine, the best player for the Packers to draft would be Martin.

With how much Green Bay loves to throw the ball, the Packers absolutely need a running back who can not only act as a receiver on a check-down, but also stay in the backfield and help protect Aaron Rodgers.  That skill is one that can be taught, but a player who shows a willingness to do that is a special player that is already way ahead of the learning curve.

Adding a player like Martin would make the best offense in the league even more dangerous and unstoppable.  Sounds pretty good to me.

20

April

Are Running Backs Becoming Undervalued?

Doug Martin

By most accounts, Boise St. RB Doug Martin is a great talent. But most mock drafts have him falling out of the second round.

As the Green Bay Packers and the other 31 NFL teams rush to find a franchise quarterback and stockpile as many wide receivers, pass-catching tight ends and cover cornerbacks as possible, running backs are being left in the dust.

Passing rules today’s NFL, and that doesn’t appear to be changing any time soon. This fact hurts the value of running backs, making the position expendable in many cases. The movement to downgrade the running back position reminds me a little bit of the book Moneyball’s impact on drafting high school players in Major League Baseball.

In Moneyball, author Michael Lewis highlights how Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane avoided drafting 17- and 18-year-old high school kids, and instead tried to draft players with college experience. Beane thought high school kids were overvalued and much of their perceived value couldn’t be justified because, well, they were just high school kids.

After Moneyball was published, it didn’t take long for other teams to catch on and start thinking like Beane. Suddenly, high school players that may have been drafted early five years ago were being passed over for college prospects.

So what did Beane do? He started drafting more high school kids.

As the market adjusted to and caught up with Beane’s philosophy, high school kids suddenly became undervalued. Good prospects were being passed up simply because they were high school kids. Beane saw the market undervaluing high school kids so he started drafting them.

I don’t think we’re quite there with running backs yet, but we’re getting closer. Take a look at Peter King’s mock draft. He’s got one running back — Trent Richardson at No. 4 — going in the first round. Is there really only one running back in this draft with first-round talent?

Maybe. But more than likely, teams have de-valued the running back position so much that talented backs are falling to the later rounds. I suppose that’s fine as long as most teams continue to devalue running backs.

But eventually, some team is going to feel that the running back position has been de-valued too much. This team might start acting like Beane and drafting running backs early again while other teams stick to their philosophy of waiting.